You’re the vice president of brand marketing at Dignity Health. How did you discover marketing? Marketing runs in my family. My grandfather was a key principal with Leo Burnett, and my uncle and cousins all had agency jobs. So advertising was always front and center in conversations. When I turned thirteen, I was given David Ogilvy’s book Ogilvy on Advertising. I must have read it 20 times, trying to absorb his lessons.
When you were first starting out in the health care industry, did you do any of your own research to get a sense of the competitive landscape? What did you find? I noticed that many organizations were telling the same story: the story of expertise. While health care organizations should tout their high-quality care staffs, expertise is rarely a differentiator for the top organizations in the United States. Expertise is table stakes, so it was important for us to dig into Dignity Health’s story, culture and mission to determine what was true and inspiring.
Have people’s perceptions of health care changed at all since you first started out in the industry? Absolutely. When I first started, consumer awareness of health care was very much limited to one’s doctor and maybe the insurance plan. Cost wasn’t an issue. Knowledge of medical procedures was pretty much limited to the advice your primary care physician offered.
Now everyone has access to up-to-date medical information on smartphones. Patients are taking more control of their health and are more aware of health care systems, like Dignity Health. Thus, it’s increasingly important to build a trusted brand in order to better connect to patients and serve them.
Do you find yourself approaching your job any differently now that health care has become such a hot-button topic in the United States? Our mission is to provide quality care to all who seek it. This has not—and will not—change. Obviously, you have to be aware of the political landscape, as well as public perceptions on the delivery of health care. But staying true to who we are and who we serve are what guide our communications and our brand development work every day.
Dignity Health has been communicating its Hello humankindness platform through found footage. How do you source compelling footage? Sourcing our found footage is an ongoing process. We immerse ourselves in the videos that are shared by our friends and colleagues on Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and Twitter, to name just a few sources. We must see thousands of videos—all of them compelling—but the real work is recognizing that special one that conveys the essence of humankindness.
A recent example is a spot featuring a young boy who has difficulty blowing out a candle. He is finally able to do this with the help of his father, who provides him with a straw.
Which channels have you found to be the most useful when it comes to engaging Dignity Health’s audience? For Dignity Health, social media has turned out to be one of our most powerful channels for audience engagement. Facebook in particular allows us to explore different types of content, including short-form videos, 360-degree videos, interactive memes and photos. Over the years, we’ve learned through our Hello humankindness campaign that social media is a competitive space, so the content you’re sharing is increasingly important. That is why we work to connect with our audiences on an emotional level on social channels, with compelling “found-footage” campaigns and others. We frequently highlight the amazing real-life moments of everyday people, and our audience is responding to that.
As people spend more time on their phones, how have advertisers adapted? By creating a mobile-first mindset. People of all ages access social media through their smartphones over any other device. So advertisers have responded accordingly and are creating short, eye-catching, authentic content. Long-form videos have a place on the phone, but only when they tell a very emotional story. The most impactful are shorter, fifteen-to-thirty-second videos that grab the attention of users as they scroll through their feeds. The first few seconds of these videos are even more important. You need to capture a viewer’s attention quickly.
What’s one campaign—besides your own—that has made you feel proud to work in advertising? Two spots come to mind: The first is from Ancestry.com—the commercial shows a diverse group of people reading from the Declaration of Independence in a place that looks like Liberty Hall. It ends by explaining that all are descendants of the original signers. This is an especially powerful statement in this current political climate.
The second is a beautiful spot from Windex—yes, Windex. It tells the story of a relationship between a father and a daughter while bringing glass —telescopes, mirrors, reflections—into every scene. A very interesting bridge for a cleaning product to make.
Both commercials create powerful stories that stick with you long after you watch them.
What skills do young creatives need to succeed in advertising today? Perseverance, imagination, clarity of thought and openness of mind. As well as another: collaboration. Young creatives need to know the value of collaboration. Too often, people remain closed off to others’ perspectives, especially as they try to make a name for themselves. They need to remember that good ideas are usually made stronger through different perspectives.
With that comes listening—young people need to keep their ears open to their colleagues, their mentors and their peers. But most importantly, they need to keep their ears open to their audiences because advertising only works if you truly understand your audience.